A Fantastic Ghost Wedding(2014)
- RatedM18 /GenreComedy, Drama, Fantasy
Fantastic Ghost Wedding
Singapore filmmaker Meng Ong’s second feature, one of the movies featured in inSing’s ‘Definitive Guide to New Singapore Films 2014, is finally here.
‘A Fantastic Ghost Wedding’, which previously went by the title ‘Little Medium Boy’, is a Hong Kong-Taiwan-Singapore co-production that premiered recently at the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival.
There, the film was nominated for the New Talents Award – an award taken by Singapore film ‘Ilo Ilo’ last year.
Even so, it is still too early to say whether the film will connect with the heartland audiences fed regularly on a diet of Jack Neo films, even as it banks on the pull of its comedic heavyweights such as Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng and Singapore funnyman Mark Lee.
Hidden beneath the veneer of the movie trailer and its poster which seems to oversell the comedy is a moving family drama that contains a deeper message about opening your heart to the complex issues of parent-child relationships, and to open your mind to accepting love in its many forms.
Ng, one of the territory’s biggest stars in comedy (‘Golden Chickensss’ and early Stephen Chow movies in the 1990s) and an acclaimed actress, put her experience to good use in her role as a retired singer here.
As Mrs Wu, she is still grieving the loss of her teenage son Peng (Wang Bo-Chieh) and regularly sees him in her dreams.
To address her son’s unhappy spirit, she decides to hire a medium boy (newcomer Keane Chan) and his father Master Wong Fei Hong (Mark Lee) to help find a living bride for her child, so that he may rest in peace and in marital bliss in the netherworld.
The matchmaking takes an unexpected turn when the medium boy, while performing a difficult ritual, kicks the wedding ring right into the path of Ryan (played by Kenji Fitzgerald), who turns out to be a close friend of Peng.
The conservative and skeptical Mrs Wu refuses to accept this outcome, and together with her well-connected and rich husband Mr Wu (Jim Chim), they decide to find a bride on their own, organising a “ghost” wedding banquet complete with paper props and offerings, and getai (songstage) performances.
All hell starts to break loose when deep-seated secrets are revealed in an emotional finale.
The film is strongly anchored by Ng’s performance, and a lot of screen time is devoted to establishing her character, as viewers get to peek at her privileged and insulated lifestyle, her antagonistic relationship with her husband, and to experience her innermost demons when she confronts her beloved son’s spirit.
Of note are the visual effects, especially the scenes of the netherworld, constructed to feel fantastical like a dreamscape, rather than a cliched fiery hell.
Ng is most natural when bantering in Cantonese with her husband. Chim himself is an established stand-up comedian appearing in his first Singapore movie. He matches Ng in comic timing and gives an emotional performance as viewers see the barriers between the couple being torn down.
The chemistry between Ng and her onscreen son is weaker though. And it feels a little too jarring to hear Ng speaking in Cantonese-accented Mandarin or even Cantonese to her son who speaks flawless Taiwanese Mandarin.
Lee and child actor Chan have an easy rapport with each other as teacher and student, and look almost adorable with their physical likeness.
Their relationship mirrors Mrs Wu and her son, and the two narrative threads are developed in tandem and tied up nicely towards the end.
AWKWARD ATTEMPTS AT COMEDY
What did not work so well are the number of deliberate but awkward attempts at comedy, and certain illogical plot holes.
The final wedding scene held at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, doubling as a hotel, does leave one wanting more in terms of set decoration and scale.
Depending on your level of tolerance, you may forgive the movie these flaws, given its attempt to break away from the usual social commentary seen in many Singapore movies which lampoon the Government and deal mostly with bread-and-butter issues.
If anything, it is a movie by another Singapore filmmaker worth supporting.
‘A Fantastic Ghost Wedding’ opens in cinemas 20 November 2014